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Flexible Working Request Changes 2024

Date Added 29.05.24

From 6th April 2024, employees no longer need a minimum length of service to make a flexible working request. Further changes, which have been introduced by The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 and The Flexible Working (Amendment) Regulations 2023 are likely to lead to an increase in these types of requests being dealt with by employers.

Tollers’ employment team consider the changes and an employer’s responsibilities when dealing with flexible working requests by answering frequently asked questions.

What can be requested under a flexible working request?

An employee may ask to work from home, change their hours or alter their place of work.

It is important to recognise when a request for flexibility could be considered as a flexible working request, even if it is not labelled as one, to ensure you deal with it fairly and in accordance with the ACAS Code of Practice on requests for flexible working.

What are the recent flexible working request changes?

There are changes for both employees and employers under the new legislation.

Employees will no longer need 26 weeks’ continuous service and will be able to make a flexible working request from ‘day one’ of employment. They will also be able to make two requests in any 12-month period, instead of one. Importantly, employees will no longer be required to explain what impact their request may have on the business.

Employers will now be required to deal with requests within a two-month period, rather than three. This period can be extended by agreement, if required. Employers are also required to consult with an employee if it is considering rejected a request.

What impact are the changes likely to have?

Given that employees can now submit a flexible working request from their first day of employment, the changes are likely to lead to an increase in these types of requests, particularly as employees seek to secure more flexible and permanent working arrangements which may have been informally agreed following the pandemic.

Furthermore, as employees will be entitled to submit two requests in a 12-month period, employers may also find that employees respond to rejection of a request by submitting a second request, which is somewhat similar to the first, but which would still need to be considered in a fair way and in accordance with the principles set out in the legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice.

How should a flexible working request be dealt with?

An employer is expected to comply with legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice when handling a flexible working request, in particular dealing with a request fairly and reasonably.

As part of the process, an employer should arrange a meeting to discuss the request, and consult with the employee about the proposed changes. The process should take no longer than two months unless a longer period has been agreed with the employee.  It’s also important to consider whether an employee may have a disability when deciding whether a flexible working request can be agreed and identify if there are any other factors which need to be considered before making a final decision.

If an employer is considering rejecting the request it is essential that they consult with the employee.

 

 

On what grounds can a request be rejected?

A decision to reject a request must be for one or more of the following business reasons, which are set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996:

  • the burden of additional costs;
  • an inability to reorganise work amongst existing staff;
  • an inability to recruit additional staff;
  • a detrimental impact on quality;
  • a detrimental impact on performance;
  • a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand;
  • insufficient work available for the periods the employee proposes to work; or
  • planned structural changes to the employer’s business.

It’s important that you can justify refusing a request to mitigate the risk of any potential employment tribunal claims and that you have communicated a refusal in writing.

What are the risks of failing to comply?

Ultimately, an employer’s failure to comply with their obligations set out under legislation or prescribed by ACAS could give an employee a claim to the Employment Tribunal for up to eight weeks’ pay. The Tribunal may also order that the request is reconsidered.

Furthermore, an employer’s conduct and attitude towards the request could give rise to claims for discrimination or constructive dismissal, depending on the circumstances.

What does this mean for you?

Implementing policies will help you to manage requests fairly and set out a clear procedure that must be followed when dealing with a request. We can draft bespoke policies for your business which are compliant with current employment practices and legislation to mitigate risks of non-compliance. Alternatively, we can help to guide you through the flexible working process by providing template letters alongside expert advice.

If you have a question or would like further information on how to handle requests for flexible working, whether as an employer or employee…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our Employment Law and HR team are here for you.

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